Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The history of D.B. Cooper

There has been a lot said over the years about who D.B. Cooper was and if he survived the jump from the plane with the cash in hand. The F.B.I. has updated their own theories and have even found some new evidence but as of this date, they still don’t have a real suspect or any clue as to what happened to the money.

As almost everyone knows, a small portion of the cash was found several years after the hijacking and parachute jump but since then nothing else has turned up. There have been a couple of men come forward in the past claiming to have been D.B. Cooper but they have been ruled out by the F.B.I. The new evidence the F.B.I. has been working with is DNA. They were able to remove some from the tie D.B. Cooper was wearing at the time and left behind on the plane before he jumped.

The F.B.I.’s current theory is that D.B. Cooper was not an experienced jumper and never survived the jump from the plane. I personally am not so sure about that. It would be my opinion that if his chute opened and he didn’t survive the jump then they would have found him and/or the chute long ago. The only viable explanation if he didn’t survive the jump is that his chute did not open and he drilled himself into the ground. If this is the case then the spot where he “landed” would be very difficult to find. I would also think that if this was the case the paper money that was in the cloth duffel bag would have decayed and faded away over the last 30 years. There still might be a few remnants of the cash since it was bundled but for the most part, there would be no money to be found.

Does that mean it’s not worth finding? Absolutely not! Finding D.B. Cooper would be an amazing feat, all be it one that would get your name and face plastered all over the news.

The F.B.I. has given their own synopsis over the years, twice actually. I have reprinted the two F.B.I. articles here for our readers along with posting two of the photos available from the F.B.I.

Article number 1:

On the afternoon of November 24—35 years ago Friday—a non-descript man calling himself Dan Cooper approached the counter of Northwest Orient Airlines in Portland, Oregon. He used cash to buy a one-way ticket on Flight #305, bound for Seattle, Washington. Thus began one of the great unsolved mysteries in FBI history.

Cooper was a quiet man who appeared to be in his mid-forties, wearing a business suit with a black tie and white shirt. He ordered a drink—bourbon and soda—while the flight was waiting to take off. A short time after 3:00 p.m., he handed the stewardess a note indicating that he had a bomb in his briefcase and wanted her to sit with him.

The stunned stewardess did as she was told. Opening a cheap attaché case, Cooper showed her a glimpse of a mass of wires and red colored sticks and demanded that she write down what he told her. Soon, she was walking a new note to the captain of the plane that demanded four parachutes and $200,000 in twenty dollar bills.

When the flight landed in Seattle, the hijacker exchanged the flight’s 36 passengers for the money and parachutes. Cooper kept several crewmembers, and the plane took off again, ordered to set a course for Mexico City.

Somewhere between Seattle and Reno, a little after 8:00 p.m., the hijacker did the incredible: he jumped out of the back of the plane with a parachute and the ransom money. The pilots landed safely, but Cooper had disappeared into the night and his ultimate fate remains a mystery to this day.

The FBI learned of the crime in flight and immediately opened an extensive investigation that lasted many years. Calling it NORJAK, for Northwest hijacking, we interviewed hundreds of people, tracked leads across the nation, and scoured the aircraft for evidence. By the five-year anniversary of the hijacking, we’d considered more than 800 suspects and eliminated all but two dozen from consideration.

One person left on our list, Richard Floyd McCoy is still a favorite suspect among many. We tracked down and arrested McCoy for a similar airplane hijacking and escape by parachute less than five months after Cooper’s flight. But McCoy was later ruled out because he didn’t match the nearly identical physical descriptions of Cooper provided by two flight attendants and for other reasons.

Or perhaps Cooper didn’t survive his jump from the plane. After all, the parachute he used couldn’t be steered, his clothing and footwear were unsuitable for a rough landing, and he had jumped into a wooded area at night, a dangerous proposition for a seasoned pro—which evidence suggests Cooper was not. This theory was given an added boost in 1980 when a young boy found a rotting package full of $20 bills ($5,800 in all) that matched the ransom money serial numbers.

Where did “D.B.” come from? It was apparently a myth created by the press. We did question a man with the initials “D. B.” but he wasn’t the hijacker.

The daring hijack and disappearance remain an intriguing mystery—for law enforcement and amateur sleuths alike. To read more about the NORJAK investigation, see the files on our Freedom of Information Act website. Fair warning: you might get hooked on the case!

Article number 2:

On a cold November night 36 years ago, in the driving wind and rain, somewhere between southern Washington state and just north of Portland, Oregon, a man calling himself Dan Cooper parachuted out of a plane he’d just hijacked clutching a bag filled with $200,000 in stolen cash.

Who was Cooper? Did he survive the jump? And what happened to the loot, only a small part of which has ever surfaced?

It’s a mystery, frankly. We’ve run down thousands of leads and considered all sorts of scenarios. And amateur sleuths have put forward plenty of their own theories. Yet the case remains unsolved.

Would we still like to get our man? Absolutely. And we have reignited the case—thanks to a Seattle case agent named Larry Carr and new technologies like DNA testing.

You can help. We’re providing here, for the first time, a series of pictures and information on the case. Please look it all over carefully to see if it triggers a memory or if you can provide any useful information.

A few things to keep in mind, according to Special Agent Carr:

Cooper was no expert skydiver. “We originally thought Cooper was an experienced jumper, perhaps even a paratrooper,” says Special Agent Carr. “We concluded after a few years this was simply not true. No experienced parachutist would have jumped in the pitch-black night, in the rain, with a 200-mile-an-hour wind in his face, wearing loafers and a trench coat. It was simply too risky. He also missed that his reserve chute was only for training and had been sewn shut—something a skilled skydiver would have checked.”

The hijacker had no help on the ground, either. To have utilized an accomplice, Cooper would’ve needed to coordinate closely with the flight crew so he could jump at just the right moment and hit the right drop zone. But Cooper simply said, "Fly to Mexico," and he had no idea where he was when he jumped. There was also no visibility of the ground due to cloud cover at 5,000 feet.

We have a solid physical description of Cooper. “The two flight attendants who spent the most time with him on the plane were interviewed separately the same night in separate cities and gave nearly identical descriptions,” says Carr. “They both said he was about 5'10" to 6', 170 to 180 pounds, in his mid-40s, with brown eyes. People on the ground who came into contact with him also gave very similar descriptions.”
And what of some of the names pegged as Cooper? None have panned out. Duane Weber, who claimed to be Cooper on his deathbed, was ruled out by DNA testing (we lifted a DNA sample from Cooper’s tie in 2001). Kenneth Christiansen, named in a recent magazine article, didn’t match the physical description and was a skilled paratrooper. Richard McCoy, who died in 1974, also didn’t match the description and was at home the day after the hijacking having Thanksgiving dinner with his family in Utah, an unlikely scenario unless he had help.

As many agents before him, Carr thinks it highly unlikely that Cooper survived the jump. “Diving into the wilderness without a plan, without the right equipment, in such terrible conditions, he probably never even got his chute open.”

Still, we’d all like to know for sure, and Carr thinks you can help.

“Maybe a hydrologist can use the latest technology to trace the $5,800 in ransom money found in 1980 to where Cooper landed upstream. Or maybe someone just remembers that odd uncle.”

If you have any information: please e-mail our Seattle field office at


Jason said...

There was a man here in Oklahoma that was thought to be D.B Cooper. His story of what is known of him is very interesting. I dont know if we have enough blog space to right about him. Needless to say I'll have to tell ya about him sometime Ron. Cooper is one of my favorite stories. Another great read Ron

Shahbaz said...

DNA testing by way of oral swabs is by far the standard procedure of sample collection as it's really quick to perform; nevertheless DNA tests, such as paternity testing.

DNA Tests

MsCooper said...

The DNA of Duane Weber was never established as there was NO DNA recovered with enough markers to excuse any subject. Questionable if tie was Coopers. Found 4 days or 4 hrs after plane searched in Reno. Particial Microchondial dna found.